Comics and the human condition

It’s long been recognised that comicbooks reflect the psyche of the age. Where movie scriptwriters have their hands bound by the will and political machinations of the Illuminati-style studio owners (I’m exaggerating slightly here), the comicbook writer has an unprecedented level of freedom. The stories they tell say much about the state of the word that surrounds us.

Just take a look at the comics that have come from Marvel and DC in recent years. We’ve had the death of America’s freedom (represented by none other that Captain America himself) as a result of the Rule of Law and politically mandated paranoia. We’ve seen Spider-man willingly re-writing history, the destruction of the X-Men Mansion – itself a symbol of tolerance, freedom and acceptance of folks not like us.

All the way through the comics we’re seeing a desire to reboot. Batman is “dead”, and likely to be replaced with a new face under the mask. It’s far from the first time that Bruce Wayne’s demise has been used as a metaphor for change – just check out the classic Dark Knight graphic novel, and think on the spirit of the age that birthed it. It’s no coincidence that the classic comics of the Reagan age – Dark Knight and Watchmen – have been retold for the Now. Back then, the story in the Dark Knight was clear-cut with Superman (and a simulated heart attack) “killing” Batman, leading for the freedom-fighting Batman and his allies to take the fight underground. The moral was simple; you can’t kill freedom. Compare that with the death of Captain America; nowadays, it seems, you can. It happened.

Over to Batman RIP which came to a close in Batman 681. The story is a muddy one full of lies and counter-lies where we’re left none the wiser about what’s the truth. The Black Glove claims to be Bruce Wayne’s father, a darker, much more sinister guy than we’ve been led to believe for the past decades. Whether it’s good writing or not (here’s a hint: it’s not), the story itself says much about where the US stands in history. In the tale, the web of lies dares to hint that the Big Evil is none other than the very core of Batman’s being. It’s not a huge leap to recognise there’s a metaphor in there for the Big Evil at the core of the current US Government, with freedoms and liberties being destroyed on epic proportions. The US President should stand – like Bruce’s father – as an inviolate figure, unquestionably good. This story, like Bush, tarnishes that image and brings in into question. In comparison, the other villains in the tale (themselves metaphors for the terrorists of the world) are seen as dangerous but ineffectual and incompetent puppets of the Black Glove. Draw your own conclusions there.

With the end of the story arc, we’re left in anticipation of what’s to come. There’s a new face under the mask and hopefully the lies are a thing of the past. We can look forward to a new era. In the Real Word, that’s entirely up to Obama. One thing is for sure though.

The comicbook writers will be watching.

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6 Comments on “Comics and the human condition”

  1. Part crap, part good… needs a cleanup.

    My absolute musts: walking dead, daredevil
    Rest:hulk (or is it hercules now? and what’s that red hulk?), batman, pvp, supergirl.

    Some other odd titles here and there… but I’m thinking or cutting back to only walking dead and daredevil.

    SuperGirl I’ve been wanting to cut it out since it started… but I pick up my books every few months and they always seem to throws in some “light at the end of the tunnel” in there.

    Hulk, I used to read in the Peter David days and stopped when he did. Picked it up when he “came back” (I though it was for real, but only a few issues). Gave the new guys a chance and *loved* [most] of World War Hulk. Now it seems like its back to crap, but I’m enjoying Hercules.

    Batman has its moments… but I barely remember the storyline.

    PvP… its mostly Web reprints, but the wife loves it and I like to encourage the guy – even though his latest Web posts about the comic almost convinced me that I should drop the book :(

    Walking Dead and Daredevil are awesome.

    Eric Maziades last blog post..Do you even like playing a warlock?

  2. Good list you’ve got there. I’m liking Supergirl too – the idea of her needing to learn Superman’s morals the hard way (and killing a fair few people along the way) is an appealing one. Mind you, I’m loving the whole New Krypton thing in Superman too. One Superman is good – but how about 10,000? Love it!

    Both me and my boys enjoyed the whole World War Hulk series. Great fun watching a 6 and 9 year-old cheering while Iron Man and Dr Strange got the crap kicked out of them! One of the best

    Daredevil has long been a favourite of mine. I’d love to see him given the Sin City treatment in a real, hard-as-nails pulp noir series. It’s where he belongs, methinks.

    Sick and tired of the whole Batman RIP series, and glad it’s finally over. Here’s hoping Good Things follow on.

  3. Well.. our tastes seem kind of similar :)

    What else you’re picking up?

    I pruned most of the mutant soap-opera from my list a long while a go… used to love x-* (Peter David’s run on X-Factor holding a sweet spot in my memories). Loved Peter David’s Supergirl… and Spiderman 2099… okay, so I think I like just about anything he writes… hmm… wonder what he’s doing now?

    I liked the first part of the “52” thing going in DC… the second part was… to expensive for whatever pleasure it brought… since I pick up my books every other month and I had to cut back in the comic budget for the incoming babies, that was an easy cut :P

    I still pick up just about anything that Sam Kieth, Jim Lee or Jae Lee will draw.

    And major interest in anything written by Peter David or Robert Kirkman.

  4. @Eric My current favourite has to be Justice Society. I’m loving the writing, the way that the huge cast of characters all interact and the way that it’s telling a weighty, slow-paced storyline – it sure beats the “let’s beat up the latest villain” pace in most other comics.

    Green Lantern Corps is also getting a lot of love too.

    Beyond that, I’m liking Invincible, Brit and a whole bunch of other stuff from the world of The Authority and Stormwatch. Original characters in an unfamiliar non-DC or Marvel universe. I love it.

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